This is the pumpkin I grew in my garden this year. It has been sitting several weeks, actually more than a month now, and was cured and ready for canning. Actually this pumpkin would have been a perfect "keeper" for storing in a root cellar or pantry. Good for eating later on in the winter. But I chose to can it because I don't want to decide one day that I want pumpkin and have to cut up a whole pumpkin then. Besides with just the two of us here, a whole pumpkin would have to be been canned anyway.
I was kind of sad about having to make that first cut into my big, beautiful pumpkin. He had been sitting on my kitchen floor ever since I brought him inside out of the cold. I had grown fond of him and now it was time to stick my knife into him. His skin was thick, a perfect pumpkin. I made that first cut and then cut it like a circle so I could get the top off. Like when you are doing a Jack O'Lantern.
Remove the top and then clean him out. I do this on top of a cookie tray. Pull all the threads and seeds out the best you can.
Once you have it open and cleaned out, it is easier to work with. I save my seeds and that will be a future post. So for now, I will say that you can save your seeds or roast them as many people do.
Now it needs to be split in half, but be VERY CAREFUL doing this. Since mine was very thick I had to really put the pressure on the knife to cut into it. Be very cautious here as you can cut yourself if you are not careful. Once it is split, clean it out some more. If there are any threads or seeds left try to get them now since it is easier to see them with the pumpkin open.
Now I cut it into pieces I can handle. Then I cut those piece into smaller ones. Peel it, and then cube it. Pumpkin, like winter squash, MUST be cubed. Pureeing is not safe for pumpkins or winter squash. The center of it may not become hot enough to be considered safe. So please don't take the chance with your health or that of your family. It is quite easy to puree it when you prepare it for cooking later on. I put the cubed pumpkin into one of my stock pots. When it is full, just add enough water to cover. Put it on the stove and heat to boiling. Let it boil for a few minutes.
Have your sterilized jars all ready. I fill mine with hot boiling water while they wait to be filled. As I use each one, I empty the hot water out, then fill. You can add 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of salt if you want, I don't. Fill each jar and then add some of the water from the pot to about 1/2" from the top. Be sure to wipe the rim real good, then put a dry lid with the rim on the jar and tighten. It is now ready to go in the canner......the pressure canner. I am not talking about a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker and a pressure canner are two different things. Pumpkin MUST be canned in a pressure canner.
Having two canners helps me get the job done quicker. I put the jars of pumpkin in the canners as I fill them. The canner is simmering slowly until I get the jars all in. Then put the lid on and turn up the heat. It must exhaust for about ten minutes. After that I put the regulator on and wait until I hear it jiggle. Or I have the option of just using the gauge, which I do not have to do since I bought the pressure canner regulators for these canners. I wrote about this handy little item in this post, My New Pressure Canner Works Great.
I pressure can these for one hour and thirty minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at a high altitude consult your canning book for the pressure you would need. I used Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living. After the time is up turn off the heat. But do not take the regulator off until the pressure goes down. Then you can take it off and wait about five minutes and remove the cover. I then let it sit about five more minutes with the lid off before removing the jar. I set them in an out of the way spot on a clean towel for 24 hours. Then you can remove the rims, wash the jars off real good and dry. Label them and put them away in a cool, dim spot. I am storing mine upstairs until my pantry is finished being remodeled.
The finished product is well worth the work! What I have noticed these last two years is that pumpkin is not that easy to find anymore. Mostly what I see at the store is the "pumpkin mix", which has all the spices and the sugar already in it. What if you do NOT WANT the sugar in it? Or their spices? I like to use cloves in my pies and find this product is not to my liking. I have used it in the past but had to change my whole recipe. No, my home canned pumpkin is the real thing. Straight from my garden. You can buy pumpkins from farmers or farmers' markets and can them yourself. I know you can freeze them, but I do not own a freezer and I like it canned better. I have never cared for frozen meats or vegetables as they seem to loose their taste. Learning to can is one way to take charge of what food is going into your body and your family's. Nothing is more important!
Copyright © 2010 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2010 Kathleen G. Lupole